Confucius Institutes – we have one at the University of Utah – are great resources for immersion programs. They help build curriculum, sponsor cultural events and work with the Hanban, a division of the Ministry of Education in China, to furnish scores of immersion programs with veteran, native-speaking teachers.
Working with a Confucius Institute three Head Start chapters in Portland are now doing Mandarin immersion, according to the Oregonian. Head Start programs are government-subsidized preschools for low-income children.
An excerpt from the Oregonian article:
“These three Albina Head Start classes, at the McCormack/Matthews Center in North Portland, are the tiniest representations of the Confucius Institute, with teachers paid and sent over by the Chinese government to spread the study of the language. There are 400 Confucius classrooms around the country – more in Oregon than anyplace else – teaching Chinese in elementary and secondary schools.
And in one Head Start program.
‘China has a saying,’ says [one of the teachers] Jiang, ‘from three years old, you can see your future.'”
Utah schools rely on dozens of Hanban teachers. But there is no shortage of supply. Perhaps this is a good option for schools wishing to start immersion kindergarten programs.
I had the pleasure to take part in a cultural exchange to welcome our guest teachers from China. The University of Utah’s Confucius Institute asked if a group of parents would be willing to host Sunday dinner for two to three teachers. The idea was to show them American “micro-culture” in all its messed up glory. The Hanban, a division of the Ministry of Education in China – working with the Confucius Institute and College Board – furnished Utah with 22 guest teachers this year. In total there are upwards of 40 Hanban teachers in our schools, more than anywhere else in the country.
Helping them acclimate and feel welcome is a big job shouldered by the state, school districts and the Confucius Institute, which, according to its newsletter, “logged a lot of miles” on its bus this August taking teachers on a tour-de-Utah. They visited ski resorts, the Mormon temple and state Capitol, among other places, for a taste of our geography, climate, food and government.
Frankly, I’m not sure what they learned from their visit to my home. I couldn’t stop peppering them with questions about China! The three women were gracious guests, each from different provinces. Two were headed to teach in Washington County, one in St. George and another in Hurricane. The third will teach in Layton. They left family, including children, to be here. And they all seemed to have a keen sense for adventure, which is good (they’ll need it!).
I only wish we were given more time to get to know one another. Here’s wishing them a fulfilling and successful school year!